- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Maryland officials are ready to begin construction on the final phase of the Intercounty Connector after reaching an agreement to acquire necessary land from a Prince George’s County developer.

Gov. Martin O’Malley announced Tuesday that the state has acquired 240 acres of land from developers of Konterra, a planned 2,200-acre mixed-use development in Laurel. The sides were stuck in negotiations since 2007, preventing work on the 18.8-mile, $2.6 billion toll highway’s easternmost section, a nearly two-mile stretch from Interstate 95 to U.S. Route 1 in Laurel.

As part of their agreement, developers will donate 240 acres free of charge for the highway, known as the ICC, and an additional 80 acres for road improvements. The state in exchange will improve nearby roads and build ramps connecting I-95 and the ICC to the development.

“This cooperation has allowed us to move forward with this last and final segment,” Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, said during a Tuesday news conference at an ICC construction site along I-95 in Laurel. “It was not an easy negotiation, but it was an important negotiation.”

The multibillion-dollar Konterra project is expected to include housing, retail and commercial space, while generating 30,000 jobs and $100 million in state and county tax revenues.

Developers, who initially sought tens of millions of dollars for the 240 acres, estimated the project’s first phase could be completed by 2014.

“We’re very excited,” said Konterra Vice President Caleb Gould. “This is a very unusual opportunity to develop such a dynamic place.”

A seven-mile stretch of the ICC opened in February, spanning from I-370 in Shady Grove east to Maryland Route 97 in Olney. Crews are now building a 10-mile stretch from Route 97 east to I-95 in Laurel, which is expected to be completed by late 2011 or early 2012.

Officials expect to complete and open the final stretch, from I-95 to Route 1, in 2014.

They will also construct interchanges - sloped ramps connecting roads of different heights - that will join the ICC to Virginia Manor Road in Laurel, and I-95 to Contee Road in Laurel. In addition, Virginia Manor and Contee will be extended.

The finished ICC will eventually connect Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, and officials hope it will improve mobility for commuters and inspire development along the route, said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker.

“You hear the noise out there, the traffic coming back and forth?” Mr. Baker, a Democrat, said Tuesday as cars on I-95 roared past the construction site. “That is the sound of potential jobs coming our way.”

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